1. Are you mentally sold on the idea of yoga, but just not able to do it much because of other fitness and life priorities?
In my case, I’m ultra-sold, but I still only do a full yoga practice once a week. I don’t want to displace other workouts or my rest day. But I know I’m missing out on some of yoga’s benefits because of this infrequency (especially the flexibility benefit).
2. Do you feel sometimes feel stiff and sluggish when you get out of bed in the morning? I do.
For both of these reasons, I started doing this 10-15 minute mini-yoga practice most mornings.
I’ve noticed clear improvements in my flexibility and form for some key poses. And it reliably limbers up and energizes me, too.
If you’re a seldom-yoga guy, this will bring you (physical and also mental) benefits as a standalone habit. And if you do longer-form yoga practices with some regularity but it’s not feeling like “enough,” this consistent short-form habit will set you up for better performance when you do spend longer on the mat.
The Frequent, 10-15 Minute Mini-Yoga Practice
I made up this routine to meet my own needs…but I think it works well for a lot of guys. I told a friend about this recently and he dubbed it the “yoga tonic.” That’s a great way to think about it.
Here’s the sequence with links to an online pose guide and a little further explanation where useful.
Mountain pose. Do this with hands at your sides, with arms swiveled outward so palms are facing forward and spread fingers reaching down to the ground (i.e. not in prayer position as illustrated in this link). As you proceed through 10 breaths, increasingly firm up all major muscles — quads, glutes, core, back, chest, tri’s, etc. Try to activate every muscle you can like a stone statue rooted in the ground, then with the final breath relax everything. It’s a great morning thing to do.
Wide-stance standing forward fold for 10 breaths. Put your feet on either side of your yoga mat (or three feet apart or so). Keep your legs reasonably straight, and let your head, torso and arms fold forward toward the ground. You can dangle arms, or cross them. For the first five breaths, don’t make any real effort and just let gravity pull your head and shoulders down. Then start firming up your quads to straighten legs, and use your hip flexors to get more of a true fold.
Left & Right Side Twists from forward fold. Maintaining your legs where they are and bringing your torso horizontal to the floor, do a twist in each direction. Extend one hand toward the ground more or less below your face, and reach toward the ceiling with the other. Hold the twist in each direction for about 5 breaths. You might not get the upward-reaching arm all that high at first. That’s fine — just relax, breathe, and keep trying to move your lower shoulder toward the ground as you twist and move your upper shoulder toward the ceiling.
Now stand up and do a side bend in each direction, holding each for five breaths.
Now move on to three Sun Salutation A sequences. You may want to try adding this: at the top of the Mountain Pose (the part where you stand up), “cactus” your arms and do an upper back bend, also paying attention to loosening up your shoulders. This isn’t a lower-back bend, so picture yourself like an old-fashioned toboggan that curls just at the forward end (in this case, in your mid and upper back). Move through each component of these with a couple of breaths per stage, and maybe stay on the downward dogs a little longer since they provide a great multi-part stretch.
OK, you’re over halfway through now. Time to do this sequence twice, first with your right leg as the forward leg, then your left:
- Crescent Pose. Note, you could substitute here any 2-foot standing warrior pose (Warrior 1, 2 or Reverse Warrior) you feel like today.
- Drop the back knee into Crescent Lunge. To really get a good groin and hip flexor stretch, you can even put your hands on top of the front knee and really try to settle your but and hips downward toward the mat.
- Pigeon. If you can, let your torso come forward as far as possible toward the ground into what they call “sleeping pigeon” mode, with your head on the floor. If not, you’ll probably get there over time.
You’re almost done.
Finally, go into child’s pose for 10 breaths or so and as much “melting” into the floor as possible.
A great start to your day
Depending on how long you spend in each pose, this is a 10-15 minute sequence if you’re breathing deeply and slowly (which you should be). If needed, you can shorten it by several minutes by not doing any 10-breath poses and making them max 5-breath.
- Good spine-mobility aspects (the twist and upward dogs are good for that, plus cat-and-cow)
- Hamstring and lower-back stretching (the fold and the downward dogs, plus child’s pose)
- Good “hip openers” (the crescent lunge and the pigeon poses)